First photos from my Rolleiflex
(at long last…)
I bought a Rolleiflex 2.8 F to start my year (2019 ya). For a long time it sat there sniggering at me. It wasn’t really, duh – I just didn’t have the balls to take it for a spin. I went to Scotland with my dear George (pictured) and brought it – – but it stayed in the hotel room blindfolded with bubble wrap – – it was too precious; too tricky; too scary; too everything everything to sling it over my shoulder and let it breathe the cutting Scottish February air with us. But that’s ok. It wasn’t destined for photographs in the UK. I bought it to take it to America with me; to take the pictures I’d dreamt of taking ever since I first saw the photos of Stephen Shore (brilliant) [at either the Tate or photographer’s gallery, I forget] some years ago.
I planned to go to the States in July. By May I realised I still hadn’t taken a single bloody frame on the camera I’d bought nearly 5 months ago. It had been a busy year, yeah, but not too busy to shoot 12 flipping photos, come on! So I went out and shot a roll at last. Then I waited another few weeks (for good measure) to develop them. I beamed like a madman when I got the negs back to find – yes, real images had magicked their way onto the film; meaning that youtube film-loading tutorial people hadn’t tricked me nor had I misinterpreted their un-misinterpretable instructions. Then for really, really good measure I left the negs on my desk a few more weeks before I scanned them in to see what they actually looked like.
And suddenly it was the night before I flew to America and I should have been in bed. My bags were packed and heavy. I pictured myself crying on the bike as I heave ho-ed up hills with all my stuff so I put my German burden aside. The seed of the entire trip. My motivation, my muse – cast aside! On my carpet. Can you believe it? By this point the trip had evolved, as is normal, and I was less concerned with photos than I was with the bike itself which I’d fallen more and more in love with (oh yes, that’s why I wasn’t out taking photos – I was busy out on 2 wheels!). But it wasn’t so easy to just ditch the Roller so I thought, hell, I’ll scan the negs, just to see – how good can they be? I did the most basic rubbish settings and all that stuff just to speed the scanning through. The first few pictures of the trees were pretty whatever (90’s whaaateeeever; remember?), mum and dad were nicely framed but one was under exposed the other over exposed. But then I got to the photo of George & Kajsa and I just stared at my screen beautifully bewildered, besotted by what I saw. That texture! That light! The sharpness (nailed the focus, thank you very much). You lunatic, thinking about leaving the camera were you? Think again. Then never think of anything else, ever again. So I put it at the very top of my carry-on bag and promised never to be so hideous to it ever again.
Faaaast forward. Shot 28 rolls in the States – CO, WY, MO, WA & OR (yeah I’m badddd enough to abbreviate). So I made up for lost time and all those days of walking by the camera on my shelf. I’m not scared of her in the slightest now, I love her deeply like a friend. Maybe more. And I’ll love her even more if she is forgiving of my shortcomings and throws up even 1 or 2 decent photos for every roll. Shooting film, I’ve long-since made my peace with the number of photos I’d call good that come out of every roll. Honestly, if I get 10 good – like, really good, like, as happy as the photo of George and Kajsa made me good – from those 28 rolls I’ll be happy as the fabled man we’ve come to know as Larry.
You’d be excused for thinking a normal human would want to run to the nearest lab and gobble up all the photos they’d spent 3 months taking and nearly 6 months before that plotting and however many years before that dreaming about plotting / going / taking. But. The fear of my camera conquered, it was only prim and proper to get a new fear. That fear became – developing the photos! I’m not a gentle camera carrier – I bumped and bruised it as I heaved it around wherever I went and I got it in my head the camera might be broken and that all 28 rolls could, nay, would be blank. I made my peace with it. I still had a great time etc. Photos don’t matter anyway blah blah. But then – an idea struck! I could test to see if the camera was broken without actually developing all the film I shot. I could run and develop another roll, far less precious and laden with all my hopes and fears Yes! If they come out then the camera isn’t broken (probably) and the 28 tucked up under my bed are closer to being fine and not blank than I feared. I was as nervous as a nervous thing in a nervous place – but more – when I went to pick up the negs. I pulled them out of their paper bag sooo slowly. But. Pictures! YES! Look, look, pictures. The camera isn’t broken (probably) and the 28 friends under my bed will be fine (probably) – unless of course they got too hot / too cold / wet / I overexposed / I underexposed / I wobbled / I didn’t nail the focus / and all the other plenty of things that can fuck up your 12 little hopes and dreams.
SO the pictures posted here –
Pre-trip pictures up here: 1 & 2) Trees (the first one is pretty rubbish but it’s my first ever photo on the Rolleiflex so it deserves to be there – I like the second one), 3) me doubled up in the edge of the mirror, 5 & 6) ma and pa (dark, bright, whatever, they look nice cos they’re the folks that made me), and 7 & 8) George & Kajsa (don’t they look lovely)
Post-trip pictures up here: 9 & 10) 2 photos of my Nana, 4) me in a vest with a beard (underexposed, I know but I like the GRIT of it, suits my soul blah blah blah) and 11 & 12) 2 photos of Brčko
*** 12 photos in all, just like a roll of medium format. A total accident. How blessed! How bloody medium format am I?
WHAT ABOUT THE PICTURES FROM THE TRIP I hear all 2 of you that actually read this ask. Well, I’m not scared of the big bad 28 anymore but I have a new excuse. Two actually. One is money – it’s going to cost a bit to get them developed and scanned and I’m not skimping with a cheap lab or scanning myself (dust is real, people). And the second – I want to cycle to the lab I found and ‘complete’ the trip. To do that I’ll need to camp and it’s a bit cold just now. By the time it’s warmed up I should also have a bit more money for excuse number 1.
On the trip I learned to be patient – something I’ve never been. I’m not ditching the love and graft in the big bad 28, far from it. I’m waiting to give them all the love and that final bit of graft that they deserve. I’m dying to see them but I’m also happy to wait. At last. I’m happy to wait. No fear, just patience.
In the meantime, I’m still taking photos. I’m not scared of the Rolleiflex. She / He / It / Us / We / Lizard is a huge part of my life now. These words and photos are a long overdue way of sharing that with – um, well, myself – because who reads blogs anyway? If you did though I hope I didn’t cake your brain with too much needless mumble jumble and if I did well that’s cool too.